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Sat 16 December 2017

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M S Kayani

Mohammed Saleem Kayani has been actively involved in activities relating to conveying the message of the Qur’an for forty years, both as a translator and editor of its English renderings and as a teacher in tafsir study classes.

Saleem Kayani's writings on Islamic topics include ‘Status of Women in Islam’(The Islamic Circle of North America) and several books for children (the Islamic Foundation, Leicester).

His major scholarship however has been in making the famous eight-volume Urdu tafsir ‘Tadabbur-e-Qur’an’ by Amin Ahsan Islahi (died 1997) better known to the English reading public. In April 2007, the Islamic Book Trust, Malaysia, published his English translation of of Al-Fatehah and Al-Baqarah. These efforts preserve an intellectual tradition of seeking out the ‘nazm’ or coherence of the Qur’an pioneered by Islahi’s teacher Hamiduddin Farahi (1863- 1930) and his student for five years, Islahi.

Saleem Kayani was born in Nowshera, West Punjab, in 1934. The son of a Police superintendent, he completed his high school education at King Edward College, Peshawar. An early turning point in his life was when at the age of 14 he read a booklet by Maulana Maudoodi, founder of the Jamaat Islami. He subsequently joined the Jamaat’s student wing, the Jamiat Taleba. He graduated from Government College, Rawalpindi, and in 1956 moved to Lahore where he taught in a school run by the Jamaat in Ichrah. He completed a Masters in Urdu (1961) and English (1963) from the University of Punjab. It was during this period that he began attending Maulana Islahi’s dars on the Qur’an, also studying under him Arabic and ahadith from 1963 to 1969. He was charged with setting up the first youth Qur’anic study circles in Lahore as part of the Jamaat’s welfare programme. He also took up journalistic work in the organisation’s publication ‘Tasneem’, under the veteran Naeem Siddiqui. This was an eventful period in the Jamaat’s history, facing an external challenge created by a Government ban and arrests of its leadership, and later a momentous internal debate on whether to continue as a social welfare and educational movement, or also enter the political arena and contest elections – a debate that had led to Maulana Islahi’s break from the Jamaat in 1954. Saleem Kayani continued his Qur’anic studies under Islahi, who noted of his student: “We have a gentleman’s agreement – he doesn’t question me on politics and I only teach him the Qur’an”. Islahi also once told him, “I am a student – don’t call me a sheikh. Once you are a sheikh you are dead. A student retains a sense of curiosity.” This has remained Saleem Kayani’s style of teaching as well.

His translation work of modern Arabic writers include Muhammad Qutb’s ‘Islam the Misunderstood Religion’ (1972) and Hasan Al-Anani’s ‘Freedom and Responsibility in Qur'anic Perspective’.

In the 1970s he took up a teaching position with the Muslim Educational Trust, London. During 1983-84 he was one of the scholars called on by the Qur’an Centre in Medina (King Fahd Holy Qur’an Printing Complex) and Dar al-Ifta to provide additional comment on a revision of Abdullah Yusuf Ali’s classic translation of the Qur’an. Between 1988-1995 he as director of the American Trust Publications, Indianapolis, participating in the translation and editorial teams responsible for the publication in English of Sayyid Saabiq’s ‘Fiqh-us-Sunnah’. His translation work in English on the Qur’an include ‘The Meaning of the Glorious Qur’an’ (Parts 1 and 2, North American Islamic Trust), which is a rendering of Pickthall’s work in a more up to date idiom. Saleem Kayani resides with his family in London.

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